Carey Price - Game Four Review

Richard Wolowicz

Assessing Carey Price vs. the Devils and a look at the technical dinosaur that is Marty Brodeur.

One of the dangers of small sample analysis in regards to goaltending is one flukey goal can dramatically alter the data. When you have a model that tracks blowups, average starts and dominant ones based on sub .900 or +.930, one goal can drop you from one category to another.

Last night if the Devils get to the shootout Brodeur's SV% remains in the average performance with a .903 SV%. One OT power play goal and he drops into the blowup category with an .875.

So while I am tracking each individual game, you are going to get massive fluctuations and some games will see the Habs score 2-3 goals on 4-5 real chances. This will bury the opposing goaltender for expected save percentage. The larger the sample, the better the results will look.

Looking at the combined data between Carey Price and Martin Brodeur presents a scenario in which the game was decided by horrific goaltending last night when in reality it was teams jumping on their opportunities.

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Was that a blowup performance by Price last night? Not really, a little unlucky maybe. The first goal was a nice tip by Patrik Elias and anytime a puck is tipped your save percentage on those shots will plummet. The only hint of odor was that if Price had not touched the puck, it would have gone wide, but that would be an extremely unreasonable expectation on my part. The third goal was a save selection/execution error.

I have been disappointed in Price's usage in the reverse VH that Jonathan Quick rode to a Cup title. I don't know if Groulx and him have decided it is more effective than the typical VH because of the results Quick had or because they feel it offers greater net coverage and provides better recovery positions (I am not against Price adding another tool to his toolbox, but he seems to have fallen in love with this selection. I am going to go over some games last season to see if I am just noticing it more this season). If it is just a copycat decision than it would be result based analysis because my data leans to Quick being the beneficiary of strong team defense, not a save selection.

The third goal had Price dropping into Quick copycat mode for the scramble behind the net, he failed to seal his post on Danius Zubrus' quick shot from the behind the net feed. It was a team breakdown in which Gorges misread the coverage behind the net, Cole failed to tie up Zubrus' stick and Price cheated towards a far side shot and got beat short side.

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You can see the space Price created when he moved off the post for the shot. Although it was one mistake, this was Price's weakest performance of the season to date. He has set a high standard through 4 games and one which I will hold him to moving forward. This was a game which could have been won in regulation had Price been his normal dominant self.

Now for the legend.

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I know Devils fans are sensitive to criticism of the holder of all relevant goaltender records, but anybody who can't see that the game has technically passed him by is blind. I have heard the excuses about how his experience and guile make up for this loss in technique, but that is part of the myth building that helps maintain his status.

The game winning goal exposes him for everything he is today. I can see how it can be viewed that it was an unlucky bounce off the boards and not his fault, but that was a stoppable shot for the new generation of goaltenders who rely on solid fundamentals and technique.

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Here is the shot from Rene Bourque at the top of the slot. Brodeur is deep, but it was because he had to cover David Desharnais before the feed from the bottom of the face-off circle. Things haven't spiraled out of control yet.

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Bourque on script misses the net by two feet. Brodeur statically drops to a half butterfly and reaches out his left leg in a throwback kick save manner. He creates zero momentum on a move towards the puck.

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He makes visual contact with the puck and follows it up....

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By getting up with his non drive leg. Your drive leg is the leg furthest away from the direction you are moving. It is essential to almost every butterfly movement today. It creates a plant to drive your full body momentum towards the puck. By using his front leg, he creates a situation in which his only save choice is a desperation dive.

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At this point he is at the mercy of Andrei Markov or Erik Cole. He has given up all chance of stopping a puck that is not sliding along the ice and is praying for the puck to hit him. All of this begun with a poor save selection and poor technical execution.

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Where are you Marty? I can't see you.

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Game over.

Let's contrast it to a sequence from last season where Price used his drive leg to finish through the puck while maintaining visual contact and a recovery position. (Gamecenter access does not allow you to review games until 48 hours after completion, so I don't have an example from last night).

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Here is the initial shot moving wide of the Canadiens goal. Scottie Upshall is lurking at the side of the net and is about to receive what he thinks is a gift. Price moves towards the puck with a butterfly slide.

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Price sees the puck has gone wide, he hasn't overplayed the initial shot and he immediately goes into recovery position with the expectation the puck is coming out the other side to Upshall.

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Look at his right drive leg. He has turned his body and driven his edge into the ice to drive his body across the net to create a seal along the ice with his pads as well as attempt to cover the upper portion with his body.

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Upshall tries to slide the puck along the ice and is robbed by Price who continues his slide to his post and recovers to his feet immediately. All the while maintaining a pretty strong visual contact with the puck.

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Now this is not analysis based on the result because if you flipped the result my opinion wouldn't change. It is about the process and intelligence of the technique that sets you up for success. Brodeur has never had to change his process because his team has been good enough to clean up his messes.

Generally a goaltenders age is enough to cause a decline in play, but Brodeur is at a disadvantage in which the position has changed so drastically that he also suffers because he is a throwback to a less efficient generation of puck stoppers. Today's goaltenders rely on a system created to visually track the puck and move efficiently laterally based on a repetition of footwork. Expecting somebody like Brodeur to be able to alter his game at 40 when somebody like Roberto Luongo (7 years his junior) can't bridge that technical gap is unrealistic.

I am not attempting to minimize experience, the ability to confuse the shooter or read the play, but Brodeur just isn't as vital to the Devils success as he may have been 15 years ago, he is likely a detriment to it. It will be impossible to replace the Brodeur that exists in the perception of NHL fans, but the reality is it will not be difficult to replace the guy currently in the cage.

When I finish viewing the Capitals game I will update Price's data through 4 games.

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